Product Reviews
by KVR Members

All reviews by DIGIFEX

Review Something
or Find Reviews
MUX Modular Plug-In [read all reviews]
Reviewed By DIGIFEX [read all by] on 11th March 2016
Version reviewed: 7 on Windows.
Last edited by DIGIFEX on 11th March 2016.
7 of 7 people found this review helpful.
Was it helpful to you? Yes No

The MUX is a VST synth with modular structure that's around for quite some time now but it seems as if it has gone under the radar so far and wasn't recognized much. So why do I give it such high marks though?
Well, apart from being a modular synth (which may sound offputting for some) MUX is quite easy to use and offers the option to assemble your own front panel for a synth with any parameters you like. So you don't have to dig into a jungle of parameters to create a sound. And if you need to go deeper - just open the (resizable) modular area and examine what's under the bonnet.

Since I don't want to bore you by listing the entire feature set of MUX (you may read about that in the manual and on the Mutools website) here are some highlights showing what's unique about it:

  • Standard Oscillator has terrific unison features; much more sophisticated than you would expect from most virtual anlogue classified, non-modular machines.
  • Multiform Oscillator features very complex, but easy to use wavetable synthesis (wavesequencing) and allows the use of sample grains; it's a combination of wavetables and granular synthesis you'll find nowhere else (if I'm wrong, please let me know). You can also analyze you own samples to create new waveforms of them or just draw a new waveform in the waveform window.
  • MUX can be used as an effect plugin (which is not new) but since other VST-plugins can be used inside the modular structure of MUX you can create even complex effect chains (serial or parralel or a combination of both) on one single track of your DAW. And by using the MUX filters you may turn any standard effect into a frequency multiband version. (Please note that this feature was recently introduced in version 3 of Presonus Studio One. And reviewers were raving about that feature. But with the MUX you can get this in any major DAW that supports VST.).
  • Terrific MIDI routing features: For example you can define different keys on your MIDI keyboard to trigger any sound patch (or sample) within a modular structure. You can then switch sounds easily by pressing the desired key. You may even set up keyswitching for different instrument articulations (for example legato, staccato or pizzicato playing) if your standard sampler doesn't support this. (I equipped my Miroslav Philharmonic sampling library with keyswitching and saved a lot of money I had to spent for MP version 2!).
  • You can use any installed VST plugin as a module in the MUX modular structure. Why is this that important? Here's an example: I use Imageline's additive Morphine synth and one of its shortcomings is the lack of standard filter in it's signal chain because it's sound engine is completely additive (except for some effects). But the MUX can cure this: I can couple it with one of the MUX filter modules and I get what I want. Stellar feature.
  • Easy editable front panel - you don't have to be an expert to make your own configuration. And: Any preset can have it's own individual front panel design - matched to the most important tweaking parameters.
  • New paradigm of preset management: Presets are not split between lots of different machines - Sound comes first, not different machines.

So - besides having great functionality - how does it sound? Well, any color you like I'd say: fat, lush, warm or cold digital; it's up to you in the end.

Is it expensive? Well, is 59 Euros too much for such a complete package making lots of other VST stuff obsolete? I know there are some folks out there calling it the bargain of the century.

Will it be supported in the future? The developer is in the business for years (if not decades) now and is one of the most responsive guys here at KVR I've come across so far. He always has an open ear for your problems and wishes and chances are good he will be doing so in the future - if some of us are going to spill some coins into his pockets from time to time.

Is there a demo version available? Yes there is - it's a fully functional version that will let you examine everything in full detail. The demo's just emitting a nag noise from time to time to remind you that MUX isn't freeware.
If you're interested in covering new ground in synth programmimg and/or are willing to learn something about sound synthesis you definitely should give the test drive a spin.

MPowerSynth [read all reviews]
Reviewed By DIGIFEX [read all by] on 21st January 2015
Version reviewed: 7 on Windows.
Last edited by DIGIFEX on 22nd June 2015.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful.
Was it helpful to you? Yes No

Well, what's so special about this synth? Why rate it 10/10?
I could simply state here, that MPS can do Morphing between up to four selected presets (and I mean presets - not parameters), it has oscillators with terrific sound quality on offer that sport an architecture never seen before, it's got a state of the art modulation system and an effects section that will even make that of your DAW sweat. You can build up modular synth structures in the effects department. But read more to get your mouth watering:

1. General sound quality (which may arguably be most important): It's top notch to say the least. If you like the sound of oscillators free of artefacts this one deserves the highest rate. (You can easily measure it by using appropriate plugins if you like). Anyway, if some grit is what you're after, you can easily dial this in by MPowerSynths numerous parameters and effects. If you're not using the fastest computer, there are different ways to save CPU power by reducing oversampling and the like. So there's nothing much to complain about here.

2. Main settings: As in mostly every aspect of the synth, MPS has it's own innovative way to handle things here. For example you can scale the interface as you like, which is nothing new, but you can not just select one of a few zoom settings, but completely scale the interface to your liking in every dimension. You can then save the final look on the screen to be recalled for any instance you will fire up. Furthermore you may select between a bunch of skins from minimalistic vector graphics to more 3D photorealistic looks if this is your cup of tea. One also can select between using sliders or knobs in the main part of every section (oscillators, filters, etc.)
There's also an extensive set of parameters to handle global parameters like pitch, velocity shape (freely paintable in a graph), polyphony etc. You can choose between an extensive range of polyphony settings, including "Trigger" which provides a staccato behaviour, where every note release event is ignored. You can easily set up any sound for use wiht a sequencer this way for example. Want to set up automatic chord play for note events? You can freely define up to six notes here with individual tuning, delay, velocity range, etc.
There's a global envelope that controls the overall signal over time as well. All envelopes in MPS are quite complex if you want them to be but can be programmed easily.

3. Oscillators/Sound Generation: This is a part where MPS really shines. There's nothing out there that rivals it in this regard (as far as I know). There are three oscillators plus a noise generator. So what can these oscillators do for you? Well, they are not sample players - if this is what you're after, go elsewhere. But what makes it different from other oscillators is that it handles waves and harmonics at the same time.
You can switch between two views while the first shows you a waveform which can continuously be morphed by using an extensive set of parameters. It's possible to morph between clasic waveforms like sine and pulse and anything in between by using only one knob. The resulting waveform can then be altered by waveshaping - the shaping wave can be drawn freely into a graph. Of course all these parameters can be modulated if desired. But there's more: You can analyze audio files to create new waveforms if you like to; and the results of some testing I did here where very pleasing: I put in some Tangerine Dream like samples and I was almost there creating a Waldorf PPG sound. Very nice!
One can manipulate the waveform also by using a step sequencer - and this is a very special beast: You can first dial in steps here with lots of different curves to choose from. Anything is possible. What's so special about the step seuencer is that it does alter the waveform itself, not modulate any parameter over time. There's a knob that controls the amount by which the step sequencer curve changes the waveform. You can generate wave sequencing effects this way. But it's not classical wave sequencing, it's something you won't find anywhere else. And of course the amount of the step sequencer's influence on the wave can be modulated by envelopes or LFOs (which I'm talking about later).
Any waveform created the way described above can be transformed into harmonics by the click of a button. You may then do further edting on the level and phase of up to 256 harmonic partials that can be painted into the harmonics graphs. But what strikes me most here is the harmonics editor. You may know harmonics graphs from many other applications and some let you paint just odd or even partials by using special tools or the like. But the result of this painting is a static sound which needs to be brought to live by modulating filters, right? Or by altering harmonic spectra for an endless amount of breakpoints in a timeline if your synth does something like that.
MPS' harmonic generator sports a set of nine parameters each of which alters the harmonics of spectra in a different, but sonically pleasing way. For example by changing only base harmonics, simulating a harmonizer or even noise effects. And since these are parameters you can change by turning a knob they are also fully modulatable. Put an LFO for modulation on one of the harmonic generator's parameters and watch the partials in the level and phase window change over time while playing notes. How's that folks?
So, if that ain't enough for you - how about using the random function for an oscillator? You can generate a random waveform and then alter it by generating a random sequence in the oscillator's step sequencer. It's easy to generate new waveforms and you may save them for later use if you like to. (MPS comes with lots of ready to use waveforms by the way). The random feature works as well using the harmonics view of the oscillator.
Each of the 3 oscillators has it's own envelope with features identical to the global one.
And if 3 oscillators are not enough for you - read further.

4. Filters: Well there are 2 filters and you get everything you may know from convetional synths here and more - there's a drive module with continous morphing of drive type (modulatable), not only resonance but also resonance range adjustable and no less than 100 filter types to choose from (including formant, comb and polymorph settings) to name just a few features. Each filter has it's own complex envelope and many parameters can be controlled via velocity or keyboard scaling.
Of course you can store any filter setting if you like or select from many already existing filter presets. It may not surprise you that filter settings or the envelope can be created randomly if desired.

5. Modulation/Sound manipulation: MPS is equipped with a quite unconventional but rather effective modulation system. It's not a matrix, like it can be found in most other synths. But the advantage here is that you can easily route a modulator to any number of targets by quickly using the modulators learn feature. To do this via a conventional matrix would be tedious work to do. There are 8 modulators in all, each of which can act either as an envelope, an LFO a step sequencer and what's special: it can act as a combination of these if desired. So creating things like a slowly swelling vibrato is quickly done. And you can create the most complex modulation curves of course if needed. You can also choose a random modulation algorithm with a complex set of parameters to select.
Well you nailed it: Of course you can create any custom modulation by using one of the random buttons in the modulation section.
Additionally you get 8 renamable macro knobs which can be routed to any set of parameters you like - powerful stuff in here as well. You may then use these macro knobs for life performance. Did I mention that all settings in the modulation section can be stored for using them later - and of course there's a bunch of existing presets to choose from.

6. Arpeggiator: One of the most powerful implementations I've come across so far. Polyphony for chord arpeggiation, event based sequences, classic arpeggiation patterns, velocity per event and so much more - it's all there. And if you are getting lazy: use the numerous random features for every section of the ARP.

7. Effects section: Well it's almost impossible to describe what's going on here in a few sentences. One could write a complete review on this section alone. I'd strongly recommend to fire up the demo version and have a closer look here. What you get is a complete arsenal of effects - but not only delay, chorus and stuff like that. Rotary speaker simulation with up to 6 speakers (very complex!) and so much more can be found here. But not enough: You can choose from a set of tone generators (oscillators, noise generators, complete granular engine), filters, combiners, mixer modules and more which make it possible to build a modular synth from the ground up here. So if MPS' 3 oscillators are not enough for you, it's easy to build up anything you need with the supplied building blocks. You get a complete graphical representation of the signal flow to keep you informed. And if you feel uninspired you can let MPS do the work for you and generate a random modular structure.

8. Documentation/Help: MPS doesn't use a user manual in PDF form. Instead you can click on a help button in any section that will reveal what's going on and which parameter does what. It's context sensitive - you may like it or not.

NAMM 2020 Report